By David Goldberg
Written on: March 6, 2020
David Goldberg is a Swiss citizen and a Boracay Island resident since 1990.
Is the little island of Boracay the White Beach only? Or does Boracay stand for coves like Balinghai, smaller beaches like Yapak, Diniwid or Bulabog and some forested hilly areas with the last remaining forest patches located in the northwest corner of the island?
This is a question I’ve pondered for at least 15 years.
Looking at it from how management on the island performed the last 20 years, my conclusion is clear: Boracay Island IS the White Beach only. Since tourism took hold of the island and in the long years following with the official authorities tasked to manage tourism, the focus was almost always the White Beach. And judging by the success of the management performance it is a failure.
While the White Beach looks much nicer than before the infamous ‘closure’ in 2018, the number of standby, ambulant vendors, and so-called commissioners increases steadily. Every access road, as tiny as it might be, is beleaguered by ambulant vendors, improvised hair salons with one chair, etc.
And while the White Beach looks now like a real beach and is the top asset of ‘Boracay,’ so many other assets are neglected, often left to deteriorate. How many assets does Boracay Island have? Most are small beaches and coves. They were once so beautiful, but in the meantime, many are neglected. An example is Bulabog beach. Although only walking distance away from the White Beach, the second longest beach of Boracay was abused and the local government didn’t really put a lot of effort into trying to solve the many problems there. It was the videos and photos from untreated raw sewage after torrential rains, which triggered the ‘closure’ of Boracay in 2018. A big management failure of the government.
An exceptional asset could be the scenic Mt. Luho road with the highest point of the island (Mt. Luho at 100-meters above sea level). But this road is completely neglected with lots of garbage, barbed wire, all kind of cables hanging low and many branches of trees sticking into the road with racing trucks and vans cutting corners. This scenic road, as well many beaches and coves are left to themselves, wide open for abuse.
It looks like the White Beach is Boracay for the government authorities. The few efforts made by the local authorities to regulate the White Beach were often not successful and couldn’t be sustained. The 3 or 4 master plans created over the last 15 years focused mainly on the White Beach. Only the ‘closure’ brought a semblance of order onto the White beach, which now is slowly softening up at the edges with boats anchoring now often in the Northern part of the White beach, more and more ambulant vendors, etc.
There was never a holistic approach to include all of the island into any planning made. There were only few instances when a planning took place, which was in most cases set aside and forgotten. The management of the island, clearly the job of the government authorities, was always re-active – trying to patch up the worst. Unfortunately, the ‘closure’ didn’t change the mindset of the government authorities in the way they approach the management of the island and we see them re-acting to some of the huge problems the island has today (as garbage, traffic, etc.) in the same way it has always been done – with no system and patch work only.